Leonardo da Vinci - Artist, Philosopher, Scientist and Inventor

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Leonardo da Vinci was said to be a "multi-talented, endearing, attractive young man," someone whose studies and accomplishments not only lay in art as a painter and sculptor, but also as a scientist, inventor, philosopher and musician. However, da Vinci rarely finished any of his works, choosing to set them aside and turn his attention to his next venture. Therefore, over four centuries after his death, can da Vinci's life and works truly be considered to be those of a genius or does his lack of commitment to his work threaten this status?

There are three of da Vinci's artistic offerings that particularly suggest he was a commitment-phobic, the first of which is his painting St. Hieronymus, (c. 1480-1482, Oil on Wood, 103 x 75cm). This piece was most likely painted for the altarpiece of the Badia in Florence, and depicts St. Hieronymus kneeling in a central position. The painting shows da Vinci's passion for knowledge of the human anatomy, the neck, face and arm showing great detail in the muscular attributes of the human figure. However St. Hieronymus was left unfinished to begin his painting, Adoration of the Magi, (1481-1482, Oil on Wood, 234 x 246cm), leaving Florence, his birthplace, for Milan and the prospect of this new - and more important - commission. Ironically, da Vinci was later to repeat his commitment-phobic pattern, by also abandoning Adoration before completion too.

Another example of such behaviour followed soon after, in 1481 and would continue into 1494 as da Vinci planned his bronze equestrian sculpture for the Sforza Monument. Bronze was bought, the huge clay model was made and towered over 7 metres in height and yet the ambitious project was halted. War broke out, the bronze for the statue was melted down for weaponry and the French troops used the once admired clay model for target practice. Therefore years of studying horses' anatomy and movement such as in Study of the Sforza Monument, (c. 1488-1489) was set aside and, tellingly, never taken up again.

By the start of the 1500's da Vinci's attention was focused on studying anatomy, from muscles and tendons to the respiratory and cardio-vascular systems. Nevertheless this was not before he had yet again set aside other projects. Throughout the years between 1485 and 1490 da Vinci had been fascinated by flight and the myth of Icarus. He theorised on the idea of aviation, exploring bird flight, the aerodynamics of seedpods and integrating concepts of physics and aeronautics. However the glider, parachute and aerial screw never left the design stage and da Vinci never tested them practically.

With a career spanning over 50 years, from the age of 17 when da Vinci was apprenticed to the renowned painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio, until his death in 1519 aged 67, it isn't hard to see why some of his creations didn't make it past his sketches. However, it is probably not fair to call da Vinci a commitment-phobic, he may have had too many ideas and too little time, become bored with his projects or suffered from outside influences beyond his control. The whole truth will probably never be known, but purely on the basis of the number of theories, unfinished works and masterpieces which da Vinci produced over his life, it is hard to deny him the title of genius. Da Vinci researched every piece of work thoroughly, having to explain the slow progress of commissions such as The Last Supper, (c. 1495-1498) in light of his attention to detail, which included the search for the perfect face for each of the disciples. Although rarely finishing any of his work, Leonardo da Vinci deserves the title of genius because of constant striving for perfection, his theories on flight and anatomy and his search for new and better methods for artistic expression.

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